Image of windmills sourcing sustainable energy that is on report cover.

At a time where the dynamic forces of change are demanding a rethink of what it means to be sustainable, with society calling for greater trust in organisations, we ask and provide ACCA’s view to the question  ‘what is the purpose of the accountancy profession’?  We explore what it means to be a sustainable organisation and how the dynamic forces of change are impacting this, before considering the role of the profession and why it is so well-placed to support organisations and society in being sustainable and prosperous for the long-term.

The dynamic forces of change and sustainability

To be sustainable, organisations need to proactively and positively navigate the dynamic forces of change. Changes like the rapid advancement of technology are revolutionising business and finance capability, enabling enhanced data insight and driving new opportunity and business models. Social and environmental concerns like renewed efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, require organisations to think and behave very differently. Global systemic shocks and geopolitical events, such as COVID-19 and Brexit respectively, challenge all of us to act swiftly, but consistently to mitigate risk. Demographic and regulatory changes are further fuelling the need for careful transformation so that organisations can create, protect and communicate value beyond its financial capital meaning.

Today’s society demands inclusivity and accountability. It seeks trust and confidence in organisations, and assurance that their activities are for the greater long-term good of society, not just focused on generating short term profits for organisation investors. 

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The purpose of the accountancy profession

Across almost every aspect of business, professional accountants have been central to helping organisations navigate everything from challenging and competitive operating environments, to ethically creating and sustaining value streams. Equally, the profession has deployed its fundamental stewardship responsibilities to protect the value created and manage risk, and to communicate organisational action and performance in a transparent, reliable and responsible way. This enabling stakeholders to make much better informed judgements. The profession has been at the heart of driving greater corporate accountability and responsibility, building stakeholder trust in organisations and those who lead them.

In this report, we explore the profession’s role in facing these dynamic forces and recognise the importance of its public interest work to build and sustain the broader business and finance environment through examples like standard setting, regulation and building capacity.

Why the accountancy profession

Focused on public interest, and backed by ethics, business and finance expertise developed through lifelong learning and connectivity of the profession’s networks, professional accountants are central to creating, protecting and communicating value for organisations and society. The profession can be that source of trust society is calling for.

Individually, these features may not be unique to the profession, but taken together they build a convincing case for why the accountancy profession is well placed to perform a central role in building and sustaining value.  These are:

  1. Ethics to do the right thing and act in the public interest.
  2. Expertise that is current and relevant when providing ‘know-how’ to proactively respond to the dynamic forces of change.
  3. Connectivity that cements expertise, to influence and implement the required organisation transformation.